Background: Information concerning the influence that gastrin may exert on the colon is fragmentary and somewhat controversial. This study analyzed the effect of chronic endogenous hypergastrinemia on cell proliferation and tumor occurrence in the human colonic mucosa.
Methods: Twenty-three consecutive hypergastrinemic patients presenting with the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and 18 normogastrinemic subjects were studied. All had fasting serum gastrin determination, colonoscopy, and cell kinetic measurement in two colonic sites using in vitro 5'-bromodeoxyuridine incorporation.
Results: Macroscopic tumors, one endocrine and five adenomas, were found in 5 of 23 hypergastrinemic patients, without apparent relationship with the level of gastrin. The labeling indices were significantly higher in hypergastrinemic than in normogastrinemic individuals in the right and left colon, (P < 0.002 to P < 0.001) without resulting in colonic cell hyperplasia. There was no correlation between labeling indices and serum gastrin concentrations or duration of hypergastrinemia. The DNA labeling distribution along the crypt was normal in the two groups, without expansion of the proliferative zone towards the surface.
Conclusions: These results showed for the first time that long-lasting endogenous hypergastrinemia is accompanied by increased in vivo cell proliferation in the human colonic mucosa. However, the prevalence of adenomas (17.4%) in patients, all more than 50 years old, may not be different from that in the general population.